Not long ago, frequent recollection of past experiences by older adults worried healthcare professionals, who saw this as a sign that the patient was “living in the past.” Recently, however, the professional and popular opinion of reminiscence has undergone a drastic reversal. Dementia researchers now understand that reminiscence therapy is “one of the most popular psychosocial interventions in dementia care, and is highly rated by staff and participants.”
Unfortunately, many of us have encountered dementia’s most common form, Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.4 million Americans of various ages currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s causes memory, thinking, and behavioral problems. However, not all memories fade at the same pace. In the early stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients retain their long-term memories and are able to recall events from earlier in their lives, even though they may have difficulty remembering incidents that occurred recently, such as what they did earlier that day. As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms become more severe, interfere with daily tasks, and take a giant toll on both Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, various medications, therapies, and supplements are being researched as tools to fight the disease and decrease its heavy burden.
Among these exciting interventions is reminiscence therapy, which involves talking about experiences and events from the past through open-ended questions and the use of tangible prompts. Reminiscence therapy:
- can be conducted in either a group or individual setting
- typically involves prompts including home videos, music, photographs, or audio recordings
- increasingly includes family caregivers in the process
Reminiscence work has been studied as a way to improve mood, cognition, comfort, and general well-being in those with dementia. While research on the effects of reminiscence work has greatly increased, it is still difficult to draw definitive conclusions about its efficacy because many of the studies conducted were small, and the reminiscence protocol used varies from one study to the next.
While the precise benefits of reminiscence therapy are still being confirmed, one fact remains indisputable: it’s critical to capture the memories of your loved ones before it is too late. The Reel Tributes team attended the recent Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Philadelphia. Time and again, we heard the same story: “I wish I had done something sooner. My father recently passed away, and hardly a day goes by without feeling regret for not recording his story before his condition deteriorated.” We had at least 30 conversations of a similar tone.
Don’t let your family fall victim to the same mistake. If your family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, time is of the essence. Record his or her story as soon as possible. This will not only be an enjoyable experience for you and your family, but it will also provide important medical benefits for the Alzheimer’s patient.